Amir Johnson my favourite person on the Raptors
How can he not be? Sir Amir. LOL.
And he is playing tonight.
To rapper Drake, Amir Johnson is Tall Money.
But to the city of Toronto, the Raptor forward is simply a man of the people.
Johnson proved yet again Thursday night just how much he loves the fans who support him and his teammates, by throwing 70 of them a party at knight-themed dinner show Medieval Times.
“It’s just a token of appreciation for my fans because we have the greatest fans in the world,” Johnson said before the show began, a black velvet cape trimmed with gold threads and sparkles draped around his hulking frame. “The fans are what makes our team.”
It’s not the first time Johnson’s given back to his fans. This is the fourth year in a row that he’s thrown his “I Roll with Amir” party.
And last September, he handed out free copies of Drake’s newest album to fans at Yonge and Dundas.
He picked Medieval Times for this year’s party because he has fond memories of coming to the show as a child.
“It looked a lot bigger when I was a kid,” said Johnson, now six-foot-nine.
Sari Birnbaum has been to every one of Johnson’s parties. Her family has Raptors season tickets, too, so the superfan catches as many games as she can.
“I think (Johnson’s) amazing,” she said. “He’s great with his fans. He’s the kind of blue collar athlete Toronto has always wanted.”
But it’s 12-year-old Daniel Fanone who claims to be Johnson’s biggest fan. The young man came to meet his idol for the first time dressed in a suit, with a nod to the Raptor hidden in the lining. His mother had the charcoal grey jacket taken to their tailor and the back panel of the lining replaced with a signed Johnson jersey.
“I’m Amir’s biggest fan,” Fanone said. “He brings hustle and toughness to the Raptors.”
Fanone said he was excited to meet Johnson, and knew exactly what he was going to say.
“I’m going to tell him I’m his biggest fan. And I want him to stay in Toronto his whole career.”
Johnson knows there are a lot of kids who look up to him.
“I think it’s dope. I think it’s pretty awesome,” he said. “I tell ’em, there’s nothing you can’t do out there. You’ve just got to have the heart and have the mind.”
Many of the about 30 fans who won a “golden ticket” to Johnson’s party via social media were slightly older than Fanone. Their prize included two tickets to the Medieval Times show, tickets to Wednesday’s Raptors game against the 76ers, a Raptors swag bag and a T-shirt and sweatshirt emblazoned with a caricature of Johnson’s trademark grin, a slightly-askew crown perched on his head.
Many in attendance were university-aged, such as Marianne Ferrer, a nursing student at Ryerson who documented the night with her Polaroid camera, even capturing a selfie with Johnson, her favourite Raptor.
“He’ll play through any injury,” Ferrer said. “Knock him down four times and he’ll get up five.”
Johnson has been out with a sore ankle recently, but said he’s excited to get back on the court Friday against the Knicks. He’s also looking forward to the playoffs, where he’ll represent the city where he’s lived and played for five years. Toronto has a special place in his heart, Johnson explains.
“I just feel like part of the city. I’ve seen how much this city has grown … It’s just awesome to be part of the new city and the changes and everything.”